Can Praying Mantis Lay Eggs Without Mating?

Female praying mantis can lay eggs without mating. This can have a number of impacts, particularly if you’re keeping them as pets. 

The crucial thing to realize here is that while an unmated female praying mantis may lay eggs, they will be infertile. Praying mantis, apart from a small number of more unusual species, are typically not parthenogenetic. The eggs laid are not fertilized, and so won’t hatch. 

If you’ve reared up a praying mantis from a small juvenile and you’re surprised that it suddenly lays eggs then this shouldn’t worry you. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a rogue male has managed to sneak into the cage while your back was turned. 

Can Praying Mantis Lay Eggs Without Mating?

At the same time, if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere where praying mantis live naturally, just because you find an ootheca on your fence or wall doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll hatch any time soon – let alone at all. To be clear though; an ootheca laid by a wild female mantis is far more likely to be fertile simply because she’s more likely to have encountered a male. 

For those of us keeping and breeding praying mantis, this can also be bad news for us. You successfully rear up a number of juvenile mantids, ending up with a breeding pair. You put them together and all seems to go well. Finally the female lays an ootheca! Success! Or is it? 

The fact that female praying mantis can (and quite regularly do) lay eggs without mating, can mean that those eggs your “mated” mantis just laid are also infertile. That is to say, just because your praying mantis has laid eggs doesn’t necessarily prove that your attempted mating was a success. Only time will tell if those eggs will hatch. 

Do Praying Mantis Die After Laying Eggs? Can a Female Praying Mantis Live After Laying Eggs?

Female praying mantis do not die after laying eggs. Indeed, many female praying mantis will continue laying one ootheca after another over a number of weeks or months. 

It is entirely possible that your female mantis will lay 5 or more egg cases over her lifetime. Typically each egg case will be slightly smaller than the last one, like the female is slowly running out of steam. 

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So just because your praying mantis starts to lay eggs don’t assume their imminent demise!

On the other hand, I should mention that of course a praying mantis laying eggs is a mature adult. This means that they only have a limited lifespan left anyway. In some months time you will likely find she has passed away from natural causes. However the egg laying is not the cause; only time itself.

My Praying Mantis Laid Eggs! Help!

It can be a bit of a shock the first time you look into your praying mantis cage to find it’s laid eggs overnight! What should you do?

Are the Eggs Fertile?

Firstly, consider whether your praying mantis has been mated or not. This can help you decide whether it’s worth trying to incubate the ootheca or not. This isn’t always as easy to tell as you might think – if you bought your female as an adult then you can’t be sure she didn’t mate before you purchased her. 

So while the eggs laid by an unmated female are unlikely to hatch, if the female has been mated (or you at least think she could have been) then you might want to consider incubating them to see if you can get baby mantis.

So firstly, what can you do if your praying mantis has definitely never mated? Well, you can assume the eggs are infertile. As a result you can either just leave the egg case in the cage, or you can gently remove it and dispose of it. Or like me, you can keep it as an interesting display 😉

So what if you think the eggs could be fertile? Well now you need to decide whether you want to incubate them or not. Do you want lots of new baby mantis, or is the idea of such a thing too much to bear?

Incubating Mantis Eggs

Incubating praying mantis eggs is quite simple. Your first option is to move the female to a new cage and leave the eggs exactly where they are. Alternatively, you can leave the female where she is and remove the egg case.

Praying mantis egg cases (ootheca) are actually surprisingly sturdy. They can be gently peeled off the side of the cage, and then placed into a separate container.

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The key thing to consider is just how microscopic hatchling praying mantis can be. If your praying mantis has large holes for ventilation then it’s almost inevitable that any hatchlings will manage to escape. And speaking from personal experience this is not something you want in your home 🙂

If you opt to move the eggs to a new container then you’ll want to make sure the ootheca is positioned high up in the cage – not resting on the ground. This is because baby praying mantis drop out of their eggs on a tiny silken thread. If the eggs are on the ground they are unable to do this. 

Whatever the case, incubating praying mantis eggs is really no different to caring for your adult mantis. Simply replicate those conditions of temperature and humidity, and be patient. It can take weeks or even months for praying mantis eggs to hatch so you’ll need to be patient, checking the cage regularly to see if hatching has occurred.

If you’re lucky, one morning you’ll peer into the cage for what feels like the millionth time and there – right in front of you – will be dozens or even hundreds of cute baby mantids! Now you can call yourself a praying mantis breeder 😉

Richard Adams

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